Naturally we do not know whether it will be Rishi or Liz that resides at No.10 next month, but I can hand on heart, in the knowledge that it will be one of them, say that I have spoken to our PM!
Quite literally for YEARS, I have been writing to Downing Street, Royalty, MP’s, PM’s, Press et all to say ‘hold on a minute, I have a strong work ethic, I upskilled to a Law Degree, I have worked really hard in Enterprise, and yet still, I am facing barriers to work and financial independence, this one is not on me, we need work and childcare to sync, either 0.6 or 0.8FTE, or 7-7 childcare provision 48 weeks per year’.
It has been a tough old plug, and the short period that I was in receipt of benefits was soul destroying, degrading, humiliating and utterly destroying, it was only thanks to flexible working and responsible finance for business, that enabled me to return to financial autonomy, and pay tax in instead of need to draw it out. It is a very simple and immediate solution to a very expensive problem. A problem that sees our elderly, disabled, and public sector workers missing out on a pot of money that we (able mind able body) should not need to touch!
And the cruelty along the way could make anybody lose faith in humanity, it does not matter how long you have worked for, or how generous you have been, the minute you find you have a barrier, people really turn on you, and pass judgement that I won’t even type up as it is too harmful and we are very fragile, words can finish us, we must all do better.
It was when I lost my best friend of 30 years, for stating that ‘I can’t believe you don’t want to put food on the table’ that I realised I really had my work cut out, if somebody who knew my work ethic, efforts, and generosity when she was in the same boat could judge me that way, I was doomed. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and I had just lost two freelance income revenues, if I had started in a shop, I could not afford the childcare upfront, the fuel and I was so fragile the stress of complete destitution until my first wage kicked in would have ended me, it would have cost me more to go to work over the summer than I could earn and I just needed to sit tight with sandwiches for 6 weeks and attack work prospects with fresh energy in September.
My work with the SMBN is to not only raise awareness of these issues but to support members with their small business journeys. As I said to Rishi, if you have a strong work ethic but face barriers to employment you either go about being self-employed / set up a business, or you sit on your laurels, my members do not do the latter. I explained the psychology being membership and why we are not a CIC – it is a case of already feeling like (or knowing that) you are judged as a single parent, and asking for help is humiliating and degrading enough, and so members pay a business membership in the knowledge that they are not in receipt of charity or public money, it is business, albeit insanely cheap.
So, I told Rishi I feared for the people in this country if he is our next PM, because I believe he is too far detached from the reality of financial adversity, and that he makes it clear he blames people for hardship. He was asked by a member how he planned to tackle the foodbank crisis, his response was clear that he would upskill and get these people into work. I was furious. Once my palpitations settled I took the mic and told him that people needing foodbanks were already in work, and already skilled, (or disabled or pensioners!) I told him that NHS workers and shop workers who saw us through the pandemic needed welfare and foodbanks, he told me I was wrong, I told him he was wrong. I agree that some people need to get off their backsides and work, but he needs to see that so many people are doing all that they can, and these are the people we rely on every day. I told him that I trust Liz with humanity more.
But, he seemed nice, and he had some good answers to some other issues, like bureaucracy in NHS, how he planned to help waiting times, his views on illegal immigration, his concern for the safety of children on the internet, and his long-term plans for oil and the country’s finances, but alas no real connection to the extent of the short-term problem. Liz did say that she would offer him a job and utilise his strengths whilst protecting us from his weaknesses (she also had great coherent responses to difficult questions around NHS, immigration, fuel prices etc). I hope he can look deeper into the lower paid workers and cost of living so that he can take a more educated by insight view on welfare, foodbanks and cost of living crisis in the future.
I really hope that my letters and words help, and after having dismissive responses from the offices of Downing Street since 2015, I am so very happy that these letters have reached their intended recipients, and that I have backed them up with my passionate insight.
Of course, whilst everybody in the mags will benefit from exposure here, I made a point of praising Alison Cork, Make it Your Business, Piers Linney, Moblox, Michelle Ovens, Small Business Saturday, and Purple Shoots, (Responsible Finance), for what they are doing to listen to, support, advise and uplift the UK Enterprise economy, and essentially uplift us little people who are often ignored and undervalued in terms of our positive economic impact.
There are many people who have been instrumental in my journey to date, and time will tell you how much I appreciate you. You have given me strength, confidence, support, stability and trust to hopefully do some good work.
Watch this space.
To our MP, to Humanity above Capitalism, and to working with what we have.